Staunton, VA, January 8, 2016 — The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.
Consequently, Windows on Eurasia will present a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 18th such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, this week once again, one could have put out such a listing every day — but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.
1. Russians Angry that Putin Helps Ukrainian City But Not Russian Ones. Vladimir Putin’s obsession with other countries and his neglect of his own may finally be coming back to haunt him. Some Russians are upset that he personally intervened to help a Ukrainian city but has done nothing to help Russian cities which have run out of fuel.
2. Chekists, Please Don’t Cross Yourselves!’ A Russian commentator has pointed out how offensive it is that many who worked for the KGB in Soviet times and were committed atheists now claim they were secretly baptized and are committed Christians. Such claims – and Vladimir Putin is among those who make them – offend both logic and Christianity.
3. Germans Don’t Really Think Putin is ‘Most Honest’ World Leader. In order to advance their cause, Moscow propagandists go to great lengths, including citing small Internet polls abroad as reflecting the views of entire nations. The latest such effort is one in which Russian outlets claimed that Germans view Vladimir Putin as “the most honest world leader.” In fact, the German outlet on which this claim was based is a blog rather than any polling agency.
4. Google Translates Russian Federation as Mordor. In what some would describe as a Freudian slip and others a technical error, Google Translate has been translating “Russian Federation” in Ukrainian into “Mordor” in Russian.
5. Russian Arrested for Photographing New Year’s Trees. In another example of the proposition that one can never be too careful when dealing with Russian officialdom, a Russian was arrested near Moscow for photographing New Year’s trees in a city square. Apparently, some militiamen viewed his actions as a security threat.
6. Odious Comments of Regional Leaders Display Their Contempt for Population. Novaya Versiya has compiled “a short list of the most odious comments of regional bureaucrats,” a list that contains remarks showing the traditional contempt of Russian officialdom for the population that has only grown under Putin as officials see that only the Kremlin’s goodwill and not the support of the people matter.
7. Kremlin Propaganda Effort Also Directed at Liberal Outlets. Gary Kasparov points out that the Kremlin’s propagandists want to spread the official line not just among the broader population and abroad but also in liberal outlets in order to influence those who read them or at least structure their discussions.
8. Few Smiles But Much Laughter in Coca Cola Map Controversy. Many have found the recent case in which a Coca Cola advertisement put up a map of Russia that did not show all the parts of that country Moscow thought it should, then “corrected” it, only to infuriate Ukrainians, and then dispensed with the map altogether.
9. A Perfect Symbol of Russia Today – St. Petersburg’s Center for Tolerance Driven into Streets. Many NGOs are under attack in Putin’s Russia today, but the closure of St. Petersburg’s Center for Tolerance perhaps is the perfect symbol of the nature of the country, an act of intolerance directed at those who want tolerance.
10. Denmark Stops Russian Ship Whose Entire Crew is Drunk. That many Russians are drinking too much in this holiday season is no news, and that some of those who are drinking too much constitute a threat to life and limb in Russia itself is not either. But this Russian holiday tradition may represent a threat to others as well: Danish officials were forced to stop an obviously out of control Russian ship on which the entire crew had had too much to drink.
11. Unending Winter Holiday in Russia Result of Soviet Policies. The Soviet state did not always give its people reason to celebrate, but it did give them numerous holidays – and the continuing long winter holidays between Western Christmas and Russian New Year’s is one of the results, with some pleased and others not).
12. Moscow Began as a Village and Will End as One as All Russia Becomes a Donbass, Ukrainian Says. A Ukrainian commentator suggests that the situation in the Donbass will soon spread across the Russian Federation and that as a result, the Russian capital which began as a village will end the same way.
13. Just 50 Miles from St. Petersburg, Elderly Have to Push Cart to Bring Bread to Their Village. And just what that Muscovite future might look like is on display now in a small village just 80 kilometers from the Northern capital where elderly people were forced to push a wagon through the snow in order that they and their fellow villagers would have bread to eat in this year of our Lord, 2016.
And five more from countries on Russia’s periphery:
1. ‘Blockade’ Ukraine’s Word of the Year. Ukrainian linguists say that “blockade” is their selection as word of the year given how often Ukrainians employ it. Meanwhile, Google reported that Ukrainians most often searched online for “Russian spring” and “the last Muscovite.”
2. Only 62 Percent of Russian and Ukrainian Words have Common Form and Meaning. Linguists report that almost 40 percent of words in Russian and Ukrainian are different to one degree or another. That should make the task of those who supposedly have put out a guide for Ukrainians who want to forget Russian easier, the existence of which has become a meme for Russian propagandists.
3. Moscow Churchman in Mensk Says Belarusians Won’t Come to Services If They’re in Belarusian. Metropolitan Pavel, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Belarus, says that Belarusians prefer Old Church Slavonic for their worship services and thus efforts to promote Belarusians in churches there have failed.
4. Ukrainians have Taken Down 800 Lenin Statues. Over the past two years, Ukrainians have taken down some 800 statues of the founder of the Soviet state as well as memorials to other Soviet leaders.
5. Renaming ‘Sovetskoye’ Champagne Won’t Transform It into Veuve Cliquot. A Ukrainian commentator has suggested that the de-communization effort in Ukraine may be going too far on occasion, noting that changing the name of “Sovetskoye” champagne to “Sovetovskoye” will not do anything to improve the overly sweet bubbly. It certainly won’t raise it to the level of real French champagne.